Personal website

Like most people, do you spend too much on a website?

Personal website

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Every modern business needs a website. Without one, it will be virtually impossible to centralize your marketing efforts, reach new people, or effectively scale your business. Because of this, designing and developing a website for new entrepreneurs is usually the number one priority.

But how much should you spend on this all-important commodity?

Depending on your goals, you can get a website up and running for less than $100, while the average company spends between $12,000 and $150,000 on the finished project. And that doesn’t include the ongoing costs of maintaining the website.

As far as I can tell, most people spend way too much on website design and development.

But why is it like that? And what can you do to avoid it?

Related: Should Your Business Spend Thousands of Dollars on a Strong Domain Name?

Free and low-cost options

Nowadays you can use free website builders to create a website cheaply or even for free. In my experience, the free aspect of this title is a bit misleading. At the end of your experience, you’re probably paying money for a domain, theme, various extras, and other expenses that aren’t transparently revealed at the beginning.

However, if you go this route, you can have a reasonably professional-looking website put together in a matter of days for a few hundred dollars or less. Compared to the $150,000 you might spend at a website development company, this is quite a bargain.

The only caveat I have to add here is that using a free website builder isn’t always the best option. Free website builders tend to be limited in terms of functionality and looks. They’re used so frequently that your site will have a hard time making it stand out and you won’t get much in the way of ongoing support unless you pay for it.

Also see: The 5 Best Website Builders for Entrepreneurs – and Which Ones to Use When

The problems with professionals

My recommended alternative to using a free website builder is to work with a professional website design agency. But this also has some potential problems.

  • Scams: Most professional website designers and developers won’t rip you off – but the possibility of web development scams does exist. Some website designers and developers are interested in taking advantage of an uneducated population. They can charge you an outrageous amount of money for relatively simple services. Or they take your money without even developing your website. You must be aware that these scams exist. Don’t take it for granted that the website design agency is working in your best interests.
  • Lack of breakdown: Many web design/development agencies break down their costs into a number of line items, but that’s not always the case. When an agency gives you a flat rate of $20,000, you should be skeptical. Where exactly is this $20,000 allocated? Why is the site so expensive?
  • Ambiguous Descriptions: The agency may offer you a number of line items to describe where the money is going. It’s one way to justify the cost, but it can still be unclear how the money will be used. For example, there might be a $3,500 line item for QA, but what does that mean? There are legitimate and illegitimate line items, and it’s your job to tell the difference.
  • High Hourly Rates/Margins: You should also keep in mind that some designers and developers intentionally charge high hourly or high-margin rates. They do this simply because people will pay for it without much thought. By asking a few simple questions, you can probably tell the difference between a company that overcharges you and a company that charges you a fair price.

Lack of buyer know-how

All of these problems are complicated by the fact that most people who want to design and develop a website don’t have much web design or development experience. This lack of expertise makes them easy to fool and easy to manipulate. If you don’t have much experience in the world of web development, you should at least be able to acknowledge this as a personal weakness.

Protect oneself

Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to protect yourself and make sure you don’t fall victim to a web design or development scam.

  • Assume Your Ignorance: First, assume your own ignorance in this area. Don’t just nod along and pretend to understand and agree with the assessments of so-called professionals. If you don’t understand something, proactively acknowledge it and look it up.
  • Get lots of quotes (and options): Always get multiple quotes and explore multiple web development options. When two different agencies try to charge you $150,000 and $10,000 respectively for the same website with the same specs, you know one is trying to take advantage of you.
  • Do Your Due Diligence: Always do your due diligence. Before you sign a contract agreeing to work with someone, take a look at the past work that person has done. You should also look at ratings and reviews. If there are red flags for that person or organization, you can often find them easily with a little searching.
  • Ask lots of questions: Ask lots of questions before, during and after your web development agreement. If something remains unclear, ask for clarification. If something doesn’t make sense, bring up the subject. If your web development partners are unwilling or unable to answer your questions accurately or satisfactorily, take this as a red flag. Then you are looking for someone who can and will answer your questions.

The sad truth is that most people will continue to spend too much money launching new websites. They spend more money than they have to on an inferior product that ultimately doesn’t serve their goals. But you don’t have to fall into that crowd. It is enough to be aware of the problem and do additional research to protect yourself.

Related: The basic building blocks of a website and their costs

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